The Life Cycle of Leading

Examining my results of the “nuts and bolts” drill during training—continuous improvement. (Photos by author.)

When I was asked to write a column for FireRescue on Barn Boss Leadership, a multitude of topics from my book, Barn Boss Leadership: Make the Difference, ran through my head. However, what I determined created the greatest impact was to walk through the life cycle of leading. Which is what the Barn Boss concept started from, where the Barn Boss was the individual who is your go-to person who makes sure everyone is trained up, squared away, and ready to run. However, the development of this Barn Boss Leader (formal or informal) did not come from someone sitting me down and saying this is what leading looks like, or here are the challenges and obstacles you will face, or how you even prepare to be a leader. Instead, many of us get promoted and face the “now what?”

So, over the course of the next several columns, I will discuss the life cycle of leading as I see it from my personal experiences. I have read many of the leadership styles and theories; however, without a practical application aspect, they don’t mean much. Nevertheless, I do agree with several of the theories such as servant-based, situational, and leader-member exchange. One of the nuggets I’ve learned from the public and private sector leadership roles is that my personal techniques or thoughts may not be the perfect method for every situation you face. You must feel out your situation and determine the best course of action based on your experiences and capabilities. As every situation is different, don’t try to shove a square peg into a round hole. Leading people is very much the same concept, as every person is different.

Every Day Development

It is my belief that we must develop ourselves every day to be the best we can be by acquiring new knowledge, developing a skillset, mentoring, networking, training, educating, watching/listening, and grabbing opportunities. As we develop ourselves, we gain valuable knowledge and information that set us up for success later in life. As I’ve seen individuals work to develop themselves, many times they establish a minimum standard where others start to take notice. This minimum standard starts to develop behaviors and team building begins, even without calling it “team building.”

As this team building process initiates, we will begin to see phases come and go. These phases are based on Bruce Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, and performing model of group development. The group joins together for a common cause, storming or differences of personality become visual, the diversity of each individual is accepted, and then we start to perform at the highest levels. As this team starts performing at the highest of levels, the effects start to naturally influence other individuals and teams through behavioral modification and self-fulfilling prophecy.

With individuals and teams, you will face adversity of some type. Many times, it is situations you would never think of; however, you still have to handle the situation. One point is to know that you are not alone in facing adversity from people you know and others you have never met. Your level of professionalism in handling the situation shows your true colors, even if inside you’re madder than you’ve ever been.

The best way to overcome differences is to train together. The only ones that matter are those in the arena. (Theodore Roosevelt)

The best way to overcome differences is to train together. The only ones that matter are those in the arena. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Pass It Along

Transitioning from the probie to the veteran will be a change in thoughts, mentalities, methods of conducting business, and other areas that come from gaining experience. The generational characteristics may change, but our vision and what the badge stands for should carry us past our differences. The differing generations must work together to develop each other and appreciate the diversity each brings to the table. Harnessing the power of all generations will make an unstoppable team, and it gives us the opportunity to understand the historical perspectives of our chosen craft.

For years while I was working on my preplans, there was a box for writing in the flow rate using the National Fire Academy (NFA) fire flow formula, and I checked the box religiously. It was not until I fell under the mentoring of South Carolina Fire Academy Superintendent Shane Ray that I learned how the actual NFA formula was developed and its purpose. He also taught me what the Iowa State fire flow formula meant and how it was developed. Without an understanding of the purpose and limitations of each of the numbers I was writing in, the required box meant nothing. Ray provided the historical perspectives of “why” we are doing what we currently do, and he did it from a generation above me. Where can we pass down information to the generation below us?

Go-To Person

As I think through the life cycle of leadership, there are numerous topics we will cover in this column. What is important to remember is that every individual can create an impact; or, as Tommy Goran asks, “What will your legacy be?”

Leadership is not pigeonholed into a certain rank or title. Leadership is about building the people around you to be better and to allow them to make you better. In an article concerning leadership traits written a few years back, it was stated that you are the average of the five people you associate with the most. Are you making those around you better or are you bringing them down? Be the Barn Boss—the go-to person who gets it done and for the right reasons.

By Brian Ward

Brian Wardcwxtubaccyduxrscebwcefseyaxrbdzddwc is division leader of fire protection and emergency operations for Georgia Pacific (GA). He is a member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, is Georgia Smoke Diver #741, and is the founder of Ward is the author of Barn Boss Leadership: Make the Difference and Training Officer’s Desk Reference (Fire Engineering).